True, we have a long way to go.
I like to believe it should not stop us from taking a minute to celebrate communal wins along the way. One such win is the corporate acknowledgement of Kwanzaa. Nielsen and NNPA partnered from 2010 – 2014 to research Black consumer behaviors. An overwhelming 87% of African Americans feel its important for companies to recognize their unique culture. 2014 festivities were under way when Macy’s shared this tweet:
Judging by the replies, this was divergent from common holiday tradition. I was not surprised. For the new age retailer, Kwanzaa is the last hoorah of the holiday shopping season.
The Sixties were a glorious time in the struggle for Black liberation. Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulena Kaurenga, Kwanzaa is a Pan-African holiday rooted in the first-fruits celebration during harvest time. In addition to symbols, greetings, gifts, and decorations, there are seven principles of Kwanzaa expressed in Swahili. The Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles, are birthed from the philosophy of Kawaida, a cultural nationalist philosophy that synthesizes the best of African thought and practice in relation to society. As Dr. Kaurenga explains on the official website, “Kwanzaa was to bring forth the best of the culture–its highest values.”
Kwanzaa may be the most successful cultural celebration in Black America, second to Black History Month. The initial vision to build and organize the community, circulate African culture while enriching the black consciousness has greatly improved the collective self esteem of Black people. The seven day celebration kicks off on December 26th through January 1st. Every day is replete with traditions and practices to honor the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles, of African culture that reinforce family, community, and culture. The celebratory colors are Red, Black & Green. Black for the people, Red for the struggle of the people, and Green for the future and hope of the people.
The first principle of Kwanzaa is UMOJA. It means Unity. We are encouraged to strive for and maintain unity in black families, communities, nation, and across the race. It is represented by the black candle in the kinara (candle holder). The black candle is lit on the first day of the celebration to indicate the people come first, then the struggle, and finally the hope from the struggle.
Albeit we celebrate this win of Black Lives Mattering in the corporate arena, the people’s movement, in honor of fallen soldiers like Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Antonio Martin, has resurged more unified than ever. Grassroot youth groups like the Ferguson Action, Dream Defenders and BYP 100 have gained international notoriety for advancing the people’s united agenda. Their collaborative efforts have inspired major wins in 2014.
In essence, their passionate work are pragmatic expressions of Unity in our new world.
Here are my Top Five Favorite Victories of 2014 inspired by UMOJA: